Today’s intro comes from the classic album Ella and Louis (1956). The rhythm section on the album is Oscar Peterson’s quartet from that era with Ray Brown on bass, Herb Ellis on guitar, and Buddy Rich on drums.
When I think of Oscar, I often think of his astonishing technique or his bluesy vocabulary. This intro showcases another of his strengths: deep swinging lyricism.
I love that you can hear his foot tapping out the quarter note as he plays. The quiet quarter note pulse set against Peterson’s triplet syncopation makes this a textbook example of a medium-slow swing feel.
Listening to a playlist of Christmas music, I heard a bass line that I knew I had heard before in a different context. The line uses a descending “major bebop” scale which is essentially a major scale with an added half-step between the fifth and sixth scale degrees.
As a bass line, playing this scale in a descending pattern over the span of two octaves can fill four bars of 4/4 time and makes for a nice intro.
This first example is played by John Clayton on Diana Krall’s Christmas Songs album on the tune “Winter Wonderland.”
The second example is played by Sam Jones and is used not as the actual intro but as the first four bars of the head on “Sleepin’ Bee” from the album Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley (1961).
Here is the transcription of both lines. I have boxed the scale degrees that are essentially the same in both lines. Jones and Clayton each embellish and end the line slightly differently, but the primary pattern is quite effective and recognizable.